I like to think I’m a woman of the world. I can make crackling. I’m on series 3 of The Wire. But rarely has something confounded and perplexed me so much as the Black Krim tomato. I bought these seeds from Sarah Raven for purely showing-off purposes – the same reason I grow yellow dwarf French beans (Rocquencourt – actually very delicious and prolific, one for next year), stripy beetroot and blue potatoes (Vitelotte, utter disaster, ants would have struggled to see them).
But I didn’t realise growing ‘black’ tomatoes would be so complicated. It’s not the actual growing – they couldn’t be easier, romping away in grow bags with ne’er a care, producing vast tomatoes, even if most of them have got corky bases that need cutting off. It’s the conundrum of when to pick the things. Do you wait until they’re proper black? Reddish black? Or greenish reddy black with green shoulders? It’s a colour chart minefield worthy of a Farrow and Ball paint shade, and certainly not one for the colour blind.
I haven’t had such harvesting anxiety since I managed to grow two whole sweetcorns and spent so long jabbing my fingernails into them to test whether the kernel juices ran milky, clear or pasty (ah, the charming language of sweetcorn harvest) that I missed the critical moment altogether and might as well bought them from the supermarket and left them in the bottom of the fridge for a week.
So far, I have picked reddish blackish ones without green shoulders and found them a bit mealy. And ones with green shoulders and found them not ripe enough. They all taste strangely salty and the blackish flesh inside also has something of the compost bin about it. But then yesterday, a revelation, one that was sweetness itself. Trouble is I can’t remember what it looked like before I chopped it up in my pasta.
My extensive research (10 minutes on Google) reveals that the worldwide gardening community is divided on the Black Krim subject. This person’s positively fervent about them. ‘Dark brownish red tomatoes with darker gel in the locules. They look almost rotten, but have a wonderful smokey/sweet taste totally unique to the variety, ‘ says another fan, not entirely convincingly. One advises that you have to pick them before they are ripe though doesn’t say how you identify this critical moment. This blog has a helpful picture. Or maybe it would be easier just to give up on them like this cross gentleman from Texas.
There’s nothing for it, Sarah Raven is going to have to come round to my house and supervise.